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Motorcycles and Liability Insurance

I just bought a new motorcycle. Do I have to buy insurance?


Answer: No. In Washington motorcyclists need not carry motorcycle liability insurance. RCW 46.30.020 The only document you must have is a Motorcycle Endorsement. This document demonstrates that you (the rider) have at least a minimal level of skill and knowledge regarding safe motorcycle operation. If you ignore this requirement and ride your bike without the required endorsement, law enforcement officers can and will impound your motorcycle.

The better question to be asked is whether you need to buy insurance. For the reasons discussed below, the answer is a resounding YES.


How do I get a Motorcycle Endorsement?


Answer: There are two (2) components to obtaining a Motorcycle Endorsement. First, you must pass a knowledge test. Second, you must pass a riding test at an approved motorcycle training school.  Once you complete both components you take your score sheet to any State of Washington Driver Licensing Office. You must bring your score sheet to the State of Washington Driver Licensing Office within one (1) year of passing the test, or you will need to re-test.


I am a careful driver.  Why should I spend money on liability insurance that is not required by law?


Answer:  No one is 100% careful all the time. Anyone who operates any car, truck, or motorcycle on the streets and highways of this State can make a mistake. All drivers owe a duty to provide some level of financial protection to anyone who is injured through no fault of his/her own. Also, given rapidly increasing medical costs today, a very minor collision typically results in tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. If you are at fault, you can quickly become bankrupt if you have no liability insurance protection.


How much liability insurance should I purchase?


Answer:  In Washington motor vehicle operators must carry a minimum of $25,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per person per accident, up to a limit of not less than $50,000 for injury or death to two or more persons in any one accident. RCW 46.29.090(1)


In the author’s opinion that is simply not enough coverage. Even a modest collision (MVA) involving transport to a hospital for emergency room treatment can exhaust these minimal policy limits, leaving you personally exposed for the additional damage. We recommend you purchase at least $50,000 in bodily injury liability coverage for one person per accident. These policies are typically written so that $50,000 of coverage is available to any one person injured, and up to $50,000 for two (2) or more people per single accident.


How do I protect myself if I am hurt in a collision with an at-fault driver?


Answer:  Above and beyond liability insurance, there are two (2) types of coverage that every driver should carry. These types of coverage are your cheapest and best protection against catastrophic injury. They are:


  1. Underinsured Motorist Coverage.  This coverage protects you against injuries and damages you suffer at the hands of an uninsured or underinsured at-fault driver. Most insurance companies write policies that “mirror” the amount of liability insurance you carry. For example, if you purchase $50,000 in bodily injury liability coverage, your underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage would also provide $50,000 in coverage.

  2. Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Coverage. This coverage helps pay your medical costs and wage loss following a collision, and is available to you whether or not you were at-fault.  You can purchase Personal Injury Protection coverage in varying amounts. The minimum sold in Washington is $10,000 in coverage. Again, the better coverage you purchase (e.g. $25,000 in coverage) the better off you will be should the unexpected happen.


This seems like a lot of worry about something that might never happen.  Aren’t I just wasting money?


Answer:  No. Our office has represented injured motorcyclists for 30 years. The single, overriding theme we see again and again, is that no matter how careful the motorcyclist is, he/she never wins an argument with an automobile or truck. You may rest assured that if you are involved in a collision, you will be the more severely injured motorist. If you don’t have insurance you may not be able to get the medical treatment and therapy you need.


Protect yourself and your family now, instead of waiting until it is too late to do so.

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